The Tim Ferriss Podcast: Neil Strauss, Author of The Game (#15)

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Ep. 15: Neil Strauss - Author of The Game and 7 New York Times Bestsellers

This episode is brought to you by…you guys. To help keep this podcast going, please check out the Tim Ferriss Book Club, where, every 1-2 months, I highlight one book that’s changed my life. Here are the first four books.

Now, on to our guest… Neil Strauss!

You asked for him as a guest, so here he is. We had a blast, and I learned a TON.

Neil has written 7 New York Times bestsellers, including The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists. He’s also been an editor at Rolling Stone and a staff writer for The New York Times.  Not only that, but he’s built highly profitable companies and is an all-around hilarious guy.

Even if you never want to write, his thinking can be applied nearly everywhere.

In this episode, we discuss life, maximizing creativity (and creative output), and generally answer the questions:

  • How did he become a creative powerhouse? How does he consistently create amazing work?
  • How does he overcome writer’s block and other pitfalls?
  • What are Neil’s favorite books and movies?
  • How did Neil become a master conversationalist, and how can you?
  • What’s next?

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When you have a second, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking here. It will help the show tremendously, including my ability to bring on more incredible guests. This show’s had nearly two million downloads…but only 550 or so reviews! If you’re listening, please leave a short one here.

Show notes and links (e.g. mentioned books, resources) can be found below.

Neil is a close friend, and this is one of my favorite conversations we’ve had together. Please ping him on Twitter (@neilstrauss) to let him know what you thought.


You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

Teasers and Select Links from Episode 15

  • The story of Neil Strauss’s first rejection by publishers
  • Why he received hate mail from the great Phil Collins
  • Neil’s techniques for conducting engaging, one-of-a-kind interviews
  • Proof that writer’s block doesn’t exist, and what that feeling really is
  • A deep-dive into Neil’s creative process
  • How the art of empathy improves any creative endeavor
  • How to hater-proof your book, Eminem-style
  • The importance of figuring out what your “white tennis shoes” are and removing them from your writing space
  • The books that Neil gifts the most


Books Mentioned in the Episode

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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48 Replies to “The Tim Ferriss Podcast: Neil Strauss, Author of The Game (#15)”

  1. Your guests and content are so broad, but I love all of them! What methods/strategies do you use to accomplish this sense of high quality without being specific?

  2. Love this. Much of this mapped my exact experience with writing and publishing my book in the UK — the parts on empathy + hater-proofing are spot on everyone writing a book should listen to that.

    Additional tip on hater-proofing? Don’t get bogged in what the haters might think BUT don’t ignore it. Call out the person on the edge and tell them why that para, why that chapter, is for them by speaking the doubts in their mind. Really works, and honours the thought process of your smart ‘uber-thinking’ readers.

    BTW also LOVED The Game. Great read and also, er, useful when on the dating scene a few years back (let’s just say, it’s amazing how many guys read that… and then used parts of it directly. Ah, a flummoxed PUA called out using The Cube. Nothing quite like it).

  3. I feel like writer’s block doesn’t exist, too; either you’re ready to write it down or you’re not quite ready yet. If you’re ready all the time, you’re a born writer and a real pro. Otherwise, it’s not blocked, it’s still just brewing …

    1. Steven Pressfield would say a real pro doesn’t wait to write. A pro sits down and creates an atmosphere were the muse comes. I think this is what Neil is saying, especially with the part about the case study of writers.

  4. Hey Tim,

    Interesting episode as usual. What language are you speaking in the beginning? It’s the first one I didn’t immediately recognize.

    Looking forward to more!


  5. Another excellent podcast with great strategies for writers. And not just serious writers, but these strategies can be used by bloggers too. It’s very true that writers will usually look for any excuse to get out of writing. All you gotta do is commit to 2 minutes of writing, and that’s it, and you’ll be amazed how most of the time you’ll just keep writing. And even if that doesn’t kick-start your flow, at least you got something down.

    I also loved what Neil said about his interviewees, that he would lead them to show more of their true selves instead of the self they usually want to portray. I think that’s a very, very good skill to have. Not only for interviewing but also for connecting with people, especially our loved ones.

    I was judging previous commenters that complained about the audio on the previous podcasts, I would tell myself how they could criticize about a free podcast with such valuable info and insight. However, it seems I’m now one of them. I do wish Neil’s connection would have been better, it sounded like he was on speaker-phone or something, and he speaks real fast. I had to rewind in several spots because I couldn’t understand. But taking Josh Waitzkin’s advice, it made me be more attentive and stop surfing around while I listened and just focus on listening as if I was gonna be quized afterwards, haha.

    Great podcast.

    1. Hate to nitpick, but there’s no tier-like division between writer and blogger. A writer is a writer, simple as that.

      John Gruber put it best: “The entire quote-unquote “pro blogging” industry is predicated on the notion that *blogging* is a meaningful verb. It is not. The verb is *writing.* The format and medium are new, but the craft is ancient.”


  6. Loved the Episode! “First Draft is for you, Second for the reader, Third for the Hater”. I’m visiting SF. Do you have have 5 minutes anytime this week? Would love to come and shake your hand…you’ve been a mentor from afar for the longest time!

  7. Hi Tim. Please publish your podcasts in a downloadable format. I like to listen to these on the go. itunes sometimes allows me to download and sometimes it doesn’t work. Thanks

  8. Fantastic episode, Tim, my favourite so far! But I’m biased as I’ve loved Neil’s writing for years now. I feel that this was your strongest interview yet, with the clearest and most interesting questions. Maybe a little of Neil’s interviewing wisdom rubbed off on you as you chatted to him!

  9. Hate these poor quality phone interviews. At least use HQ communication services, or treat the audio?

  10. Writing a self-help book, to me, is probably what making a movie is to you, Tim – it’s just one of those things I “have” to do it within this lifetime.

    What’s been holding me back? (a) I’m not a great writer, but more importantly, (b) I don’t have any impressive accomplishments under my belt.

    These past few years I’ve been trying to emulate you and other successful entrepreneurs in hopes that I might be able to create an abundance of cash flow and time (to be used primarily for activities that excite me), which would of course put me in a great position to give people valuable advice. But for the most part I’ve been experiencing “entrepreneur’s block”.

    So I’ve been considering to work backwards, i.e. composing a first draft of a self-help book that contains only problems and goals, but no actual solutions. Honing the craft of writing and clear thinking would hopefully jump-start a creative process which leads to the solutions needed in order to achieve the goals – This would be a story that writes itself, so to speak.

    In this podcast you mentioned that there are many bad reasons for people to write books. Hopefully this is not one of them. 🙂

    Any words of wisdom?

    1. Dude I don’t see why a) or b) keeps you from anything? A good idea might be to just start whatever you want to do and stop thinking. Trial en error is extremely useful and should be embraced, just like failure (don’t be scared man). Because you will have to actually do things instead of just planning or talking about them… That’s all there is to it.

      All the best to you mate, I hope you get stuff done!

      1. I appreciate your comment, JD. Yes, you’re absolutely right – why not just go ahead and try it out? Fear of failure isn’t the problem. I’ve just been trying to choose my activities wisely and be selective (80/20), since I’m the type who comes up with 10 new ideas or activities every day, but doesn’t stick with anything in the long run. Following Tim’s advice, it’s better to block out 2-3 hours per day to focus on 1 or 2 critically important things, rather than choose to do 10 and get nothing done. On the other hand, you often have to try out many things trial-and-error style, as you say, in order to determine if the activity or action is truly effective for any given goal. Maybe that’s the case with this self-help book (literally “self-help”), and imperfect action always beats perfect inaction, so thanks for the positive encouragement.

  11. Tim, I loved this podcast. Neil is a very cool guy. Would love to see him back so you could pick his brain on the following topics:

    – 80/20 approach to getting better with women / pick-up

    – What the ordinary person should do to protect against the worst case emergencies

    Would be great if you could get him to reveal stuff that’s not in the books.



  12. Tim, your use of foul language is getting too over the top and out of control for me. Its too bad because I want to pay attention to you but I’m finding it hard too. I’m turning you out more and more.

  13. With all due respect to your friend Neil, he’s wrong about writer’s block. This anxiety-fueled pause makes great writers. When WB affects journalists, they produce writing without feeling. WB is a metaphorical one month vacation.

  14. Interesting to hear Neil’s take on asking interview questions that would suggest his understanding of the person’s point of view on a situation. Naturally, I assumed this podcast was going to be about the game, but I think this was more valuable. Side note – Stay Focused and LeechBlock are free browser extensions that I assume act on a similar level to Freedom

  15. I listened to the game on audible and I wanna point out that this is one of the books very optimized to listen to because it is written in a simple and easily understandable book. It’s basically a narration so you can follow-up while doing other non-important routine stuff around the house 😀

  16. Neil’s thoughts on writer’s block were spot on. I enjoyed the episode!

    Also +1 for internet blocking – it’s hilarious to watch how much more productive you become after doing it. Highly recommended.

  17. Great interview, Neil Strauss has helped a lot of guys in the dating world and continues to. Really enjoyed listening to this podcast and what better man to interview him than Tim Ferriss.

  18. You don’t offer a transcript of your podcasts, or do you? It would be so helpful for me and my bad english to understand the great content!

    Greets from Germany!

  19. Great episode.

    Neil really seems to be an amazing person. I am actually thinking about buying one of his books now…

    Thanks for having him, keep up the awesome guests!



  20. Hey Tim,

    This was my favourite episode of all time.

    As a fellow researcher, I love the question you ask “what books do you gift other people”. A very clever way of accessing a different part of people they usually don’t show to us in the context of an interview.

  21. I think probably the most interesting part of this podcast was Strauss’ talking about his method for interviewing, which is essentially the basic method for getting an audience engaged in your writing. It reminds me of a brilliant blog post I read by author Robert Greene on the art of interviewing. Essentially,you want to lead your interviewee into a position where she reveals herself, opens herself up to you. If there was ever a book to be written on writing, it should definitely be about this concept of “the art of empathy.” In any case, great podcast – I learned a lot of practical information!

  22. This quote is the biggest thing I got out of this interview, though I will be re-listening to mine the gold on effective writing out of this since I feel like that’s in my future in some form…

    “…That choice we all have in life: Are you going to fulfill your potential; or are you just going to give in to the peer pressure of the moment and become nothing. I was talking to this billionaire friend of mine, and I was saying I really would like to write a book about the way your mind works. And he was saying that … the biggest mistake you can make is to accept the norms of your time. By not accepting norms is where you innovate – whether it’s with technology, with books, with anything. So not accepting the norms is the secret to really big success and changing the world.” – Neil Strauss, 47:38

    Keep ’em coming Tim!

    1. Yep, same for me. That quote is incredibly powerful. Anybody know of a good book that reflects this type of thinking/attitude/philosophy. Thx

  23. Awesome interview. Would love to hear a part two where you guys discuss the businesses Neil has started (that you teased in the opening).

  24. Splendid!

    Take away: Metaphor

    I am a budding author, so….I need to study the implementation of metaphors.


  25. Haha I love this!

    Great convo! I want to meet many of the people you’ve met on your podcast. Seem like a great community of positive influences that push you to improve yourself!

    Many things to learn from you guys!

    Sweet podcast Tim! Keep ’em up!

    Take care

  26. I love your podcasts very much, but I only wish they could be longer. I think I’m just use to listening to Joe Rogan for like 3 hours every 3 days or so, but if you could make your podcasts longer I think everyone would appreciate it. Just a fan suggestion, but I would rather have 1 hour of your podcast then none so I can’t be too greedy.

  27. Thanks for making your podcast available to people like me who won’t use Itunes. Much appreciated.


    In my gut, I know this to be true. In practice my efforts to market the book have all been thwarted since I feel them to be ill-timed. But I have read enough books that say to start marketing before you even write the book. Intellectually, this makes sense – get your readers on-board before you start writing. But I just can’t get down with it. All efforts to market before the book is done feel out of place.

    1. P.S., so, interview Tim Grahl from Your First Thousand Copies who talks about switching the order of things. Instead of going “books->readers” he says to go “readers->books”.

  29. Tim, I listened to this for a second time yesterday and wrote something in one sitting. I have just started writing. Thank you. I really like the “inbetweenasodes” as well as the longer shows. I really love what you do. Izzy

  30. Tim,

    I think it’s good to have a variety of depths in your posts. I’m thinking if the concept is all ‘front of the brain’ stuff, explain it fully. If on the other hand it’s a reptilian/gut thing that needs to be experienced, a good analogy and a call to action might be a better way to convey it. No sense in explaining the taste of a glass of wine, right? Pick up the info you absolutely need and go pour one and experience it. Either way….keep it up!!!!


  31. I am big fun of Neil and you Tim!

    Read both books and they opened my eyes.

    Thanks guys for creating awesome value-able content! I wish more people like you exist!



  32. Monogamy vs Polyamory are simply labels. True partnership transcends both.

    What does that mean?

    My love and I hold the frame of “Function Over Form.”

    Meaning, “What greater purpose is our partnership serving?” That is the first question and from there, the ‘form’ will emerge.

    Every 90 days or so, we do a personal retreat together where we explore what we both want out of life for our next phase together. We share all our desires of what we’re craving in life. We share the desires we’re afraid to speak. We share turn ons, turn offs. We share the visions we hold for one another to reach even greater levels of power, influence, and love. And we mentally explore what our vision of life would look like if we were living more fully.

    After we get all of that on the table, we usually create some sort of an experiment or intention for the next period of life together. Maybe it’s exploring with others together. Or maybe it’s total monogamy or committing to having sex every day together for a period of time.

    The possibilities feel endless and it’s designed specifically to follow our deepest hearts’ desires. Not the fleeting moment-to-moment animal sexual desires. But our deepest yearings…

    “Desire is destiny speaking through you” is what my love says over and over. It doesn’t mean we act on it every time. But we always respect and explore it, even if we never do anything with it.

    With this model, the ‘labels’ or the ‘form’ doesn’t matter. It’s secondary.

    This allows us to always be ebbing and flowing together. Constantly attuning the moment, asking “what do we want in life right NOW?” As opposed to trying to fit into a label that boxes us into one frame forever.

    And this has led us to living a deeply passionate, explorative life together that feels like a true partnership and four years in, its the most satisfying way of building a relationship either of us have ever found.